x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirates supporter brought down to earth by football hero's feet of clay

No air miles? No deal. Frank Kane skips Emirates and buys tickets for Virgin Atlantic because, with no miles on offer, it's the thought of saving that counts.

I have been a great fan of Emirates Airline ever since I moved to the UAE in 2006.

I've bought into all the loyalty schemes, used Emirates as my preferred carrier at every opportunity and advised friends and visitors to fly Emirates whenever they could.

The attractions of the airline over any other serving the region are tangible: the best airport terminal in the world in T3 DXB, modern comfortable aircraft, well-trained and attentive staff and a great schedule, especially to Europe.

But all this time there has been just a little nucleus of resentment at one particular aspect of Emirates' traveller policy: if you don't fly on the trip yourself, you don't get the airmiles.

Like many other expats, I suspect, who have family and friends in the UK who like to make regular visits to Dubai, I try to get my children to fly out at least twice a year to see dad. They're out in a couple of weeks.

Not that they're children any more. At 19 and 15 my daughter and son are well beyond the "unaccompanied minor" phase. In fact, they often now like to bring friends out on their visits, 10 days alone with the old man being just a little uncool.

All this adds up to quite a bill each time I fly them out. I've always swallowed the airmiles factor and flown them Emirates in the past but this time I made a consumer decision with my discretionary spend: Virgin Atlantic were offering the lowest fare and, as I would get no Skywards reward, I plumped for Richard Branson's outfit, which was a few hundred dirhams cheaper.

No hard feelings, Emirates. I'm sure I'll be back on board again soon. But only when I'm getting the airmiles.

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I wrote last week of how much I was looking forward to seeing Paul Gascoigne, one of my footballing heroes, at a event in Dubai entitled An evening with Gazza. What a disappointment that turned out to be.

He arrived at Longs Bar in the Towers Rotana hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road looking a bit tired and spacey, with his friend Jimmy "Fivebellies" and a minder in tow. But he spoke as lucidly as he ever did, cracked a few funnies, gave a decent pre-match briefing and got a rapturous round of applause just as the England match began against Ukraine.

It was all downhill from there though. As the game wore on the circle of security men round him grew in number, mainly to stop Gazza fans from actually grabbing a handshake and a few words, maybe even a picture with their hero.

At the end of the game, he muttered something inaudible into a mike and then made a quick exit. The evening with Gazza was over.

A pal of mine, also a Gazza fan, took it up with the organisers, a Dubai outfit called CPI, and was told Gazza was "nervous" and "suffering from a stomach upset".

But, as another friend who kept a close watch on him during the evening observed, "He didn't look too nervous when he was dragged over to meet those four ladies by the bar, and his stomach upset didn't stop him hitting the buffet half a dozen times." I suppose all heroes, especially footballers, turn out to have feet of clay but I always thought Gazza was different.

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Goldman Sachs elevator gossip: Executive number one: "Hey, do you have change for a US$20 note?" Executive number two: "A $20 note is change, bro."